Steamboat Springs When former Alpine ski racer Andy LeRoy came to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club at age 8, he was hoping to learn to ski while also finding a place to go when the school bell rang at the end of the day. But many years after his last top-level race, he realized that the club not only taught him to ski, it gave him a path to find success.
“The coaches became my parents,” LeRoy said. “They taught me to look a person in the eyes when you shake hands, they taught me to tuck in my shirt when you step up to accept an award and they taught me to greet people with a smile. They taught me the life lessons that are still with me today.”
A legacy of success: Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club is about a lot more than just producing Olympic-caliber athletes that bring home medals. It’s the story of the more than 20,000 members who have put on the club’s jacket and represented our town around the world for the past 100 years.
The words of his coaches were welcomed by LeRoy, who lost his father when he was very young. After his father died, LeRoy’s mother stayed in Steamboat working several jobs to support her family. The Winter Sports Club introduced LeRoy to the slopes at Howelsen Hill and Mount Werner. And there, LeRoy quickly discovered his love for skiing.
The Winter Sports Club embraced LeRoy and his family. It supported his dreams with scholarship money, and his coaches took an interest not only in his success on the slopes, but his life off the slopes.
“I think the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club is the greatest club in the country,” LeRoy said. “It’s not just for the elite. I came to understand that the club is for the greater good of the community and that there are opportunities for every child who comes to the club — not just the children with money. It offers lots of good scholarships, and it’s one of the least expensive clubs in the country.”
LeRoy’s success at the club allowed him to ski at the highest levels and to travel around the world as a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1993 to 1999. He was invited to ski at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, but he failed to complete his second run. Looking back, he felt like he should have hiked back up the hill after missing a gate, but the young man had expected to return in 2002 for another shot. He never brought home an Olympic medal, but he didn’t let that stop him from chasing his goals.
A few years later, he elected to pursue his degree at the University of Colorado, where he was a First-Team All American and won an individual national slalom title in 2000. He also was named CU Athlete of the Year that season.
But LeRoy’s interest in the sport reached beyond racing. He served as an assistant coach at the University of Colorado from 2001 to 2002.
Years of beating up his body on the ski runs, knee problems and a bad back forced LeRoy to stop competing, but he wasn’t close to being done.
After his graduation from CU in 2003, LeRoy returned to the Winter Sports Club to coach at the junior level from 2003 to 2006. He was named Rocky Mountain Region Coach of the Year in 2005 and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Coach of the Year in 2006.
Seven years ago, LeRoy left Steamboat to become the head Alpine coach at the University of Denver. He led the team to three national titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and he was named the Rocky Mountain Intermountain Collegiate Ski Association Coach of the Year for Alpine skiing his first three seasons at the University of Denver.
LeRoy stepped into the spotlight in 2004 when his mom read an advertisement for the production of the “Bachelor” she saw in the local paper. At first, LeRoy didn’t take it seriously.
“She sent in a head shot and a letter,” LeRoy said. “I didn’t get picked, so I thought it was over.”
But a short time later, the folks at ABC called LeRoy and asked if he would be interested in being a part of the “Bachelorette” featuring Jen Schefft.
The experience put LeRoy in the spotlight briefly, but he was eliminated on the show’s premiere. Still, LeRoy said it was a valuable experience.
“It was a great experience,” LeRoy said. “You had to answer a lot of different questionnaires and go through a ton of tests. I learned a lot about myself and the type of person I was. It also helped me realize what I was looking for in the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”
A short time later, he met the woman of his dreams. He married his wife, Julie Lynn LeRoy, in June 2009. The couple has a 3-year-old son, Andrew Abbott LeRoy, and a daughter, Lydia Campbell LeRoy, who was born six months ago.
These days, Andy LeRoy is busy working to put the University of Denver ski team back on the top of collegiate skiing and attempting to pass along many of the lessons he learned in Steamboat as a young man.
“I still remember the life lessons I learned at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club,” LeRoy said. “Those are the lessons that I’m hoping to teach my athletes here.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966
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